Launch of NASA communications satellite delayed

Antenna damaged in mid-July, causing launch push-back


CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Teams are reviewing new launch opportunities for NASA's latest communications satellite after it was damaged earlier this month in Titusville.

The agency's final Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, labeled TDRS-M, was slated for a 9:02 a.m. August 3 launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station before sustaining antenna damage on July 14 at Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville.

A tentative schedule suggests that teams are targeting no earlier than August 10 for the mission from Launch Complex 41, but has not been confirmed, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.

A NASA official on Monday said the Boeing-built spacecraft, which cost about $408 million, was fueled and in the upright position when a crane operation caused damage to the Omni S-band antenna.

“We had a little challenge there with a crane operation, so we have to do a remove and replace for an omni antenna," said Greg Williams, of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, during a NASA Advisory Council conference call.

The operation was scheduled for Monday and NASA is expected to provide an update later this week.

A second, separate issue, likely caused by an electrostatic discharge at the launch site, was being evaluated on July 20, according to NASA, and involved mechanical ground support equipment.

The TDRS network, operated by NASA, supports space communications to and from the ground for missions and launch vehicles. It provides scientists, engineers and managers with a link to spacecraft such as the International Space Station and Hubble Space Telescope.

The last TDRS mission, named TDRS-L, launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on an Atlas V rocket in January 2014.

TDRS-M will be ULA's first mission since an Atlas V rocket launched from Cape Canaveral with an Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft bound for the International Space Station with supplies and science experiments.